The Corner

Anthony Weiner to Elon Musk: You Disruptive Innovator, Stop It

Over at Business Insider, Anthony Weiner’s inaugural column covers the Tesla–New Jersey fight in a way that demonstrates everything that is wrong with the backwards mindset of know-it-all, crony kiss-ass politicians who couldn’t innovate their way out of a brown paper bag. Here’s a tidbit:

Reasonable people may think regulations that get in the way of tech companies are all just bad laws. In Tesla’s case, some might consider bans on direct auto sales to be part of a protectionist regime set up by a powerful lobby—neighborhood car dealers—and unchallenged by a lazy industry that didn’t want to antagonize its sales force. Still, dismissing all existing regulations out of hand without recognizing them as the product of reasoning and careful consideration isn’t the answer.

Tesla and these other tech disruptors might want to put more of their energy into finding ways to fit their innovations into existing regulations.

That’s right; his advice to innovators: Stop disrupting the system and try to fit your new model into the old one!

Better yet, he adds:

In situations where that’s not possible, why don’t these founders and tech executives focus on getting wider public support or convincing lawmakers their causes are just? Instead, they seem to show up expecting the world to be wowed by their shiny new companies and losing it when people don’t get out of the way. Gnashing of teeth via press release doesn’t make the case where it counts. If you want to be in the business of selling great cars, there may be more productive ways to spend your time than bitching about the laws that the majority have passed and reaffirmed from the time of the Model T.

Wow, just wow. There is so much wrong in there that I am not sure where to start. So first, if doing what the old guard requires isn’t possible, the best thing to do is to start lobbying politicians in order to try to get special regulatory treatment. Shocking that a politician would suggest such a thing.

Weiner talks about how innovators are upset when “people don’t get out of the way,” which is massively misleading. The innovators get upset when other businesses put government in the way. 

And then there’s his charming piece of optimism: “There may be more productive ways to spend your time than bitching about the laws that the majority have passed.” Seriously? So Americans should sit on their hands and accept Obamacare, or Dodd-Frank (or Weiner’s despised bike lanes, for that matter)? Americans should just accept that Congress or whatever body, all evidence to the contrary, has passed the right laws. At a time when Obamacare has helped even more Americans realize just how incompetent lawmakers are at implementing policies and the negative consequences politicians’ decisions can have on their lives, Weiner is trying to make us respect the wisdom of politicians and the laws they pass. That’s rich.

And yes, Mr. Weiner, innovators that invent new technology that will change the lives of millions of Americans or people around the world, lower our cost of living, and make the world a better place, should be able to do so without having to constantly fight with politicians. The government shouldn’t get in the way of innovation and progress — it should watch from the sidelines and be grateful that there are private actors who are willing to risk their own money to produce benefits government can never promise.

Update: My colleague Matthew Mitchell sends another example of an absurd justification for the cronyism that took place in New Jersey. He writes:

Here is the way the Christie Administration spokesperson characterized the decision: “This administration does not find it appropriate to unilaterally change the way cars are sold in New Jersey without legislation, and Tesla has been aware of this position since the beginning.”

I can think of no better description of innovation by permission only. 

Funny that Matt should say that. Our colleague Adam Thierer has a new book on Permissionless Innovation, which every lawmaker and regulator in the country should read. Here is the link

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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